SAIIER 2020:Teachers' Center

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SAIIER Annual Report 2019-20.jpg
SAIIER 2019-20


Teachers’ Center


The Teachers’ Center exists to offer a place and a service independent of all the existing schools. The professional resources are available to all teachers who would like to access to them. Its aim is to encourage the development of Integral Education as defined by Mother and Sri Aurobindo through collaboration, networking, research and innovation.

This year, using Google Drive, we developed and upload online materials for Professional Development as well as materials for specific age groups. These online resources have been shared with teachers for their use.

We also are in the process of creating satellites under the Teachers’ Center umbrella. We started with a Special Learning satellite.  

Activities of the year:

  • Our usual work went on as before: individual support, mentoring, training, observation of classes and feedback sessions, group work through workshops and meetings, participation in school support groups, archiving photos of the history of education in Auroville and maintaining a library of Professional Development literature.
  • We completed our “Science A to Z” curriculum material from Kindergarten to 6th grade. The list of topics was sent to each school, offering introduction sessions to the material. Teachers in Transition School and Deepanam School used it this year in grades 2, 4, 5, 6.
  • We researched strategies to bring teachers together online, and created an Edmodo online site for the Teachers’ Center which is a resource available to all teachers with links, materials and webinars to view.
  • We have been able to open the Teachers’ Center office regularly; we receive drop-ins and inquiries, exchange information with many teachers from outside Auroville on Integral Education. We receive parents and volunteers who want to know how Auroville schools practically integrate the Integral Education principles in their program and the running of the schools. We continue to maintain order in our files and catch up with the loose ends of our office work.
  • A member of our team was sent to Aikiyam School for improving the Crèche/Kindergarten section, developing a new program which introduces Montessori philosophy and activities aligned with Integral Education. The teachers fully cooperated and were eager to better understand child development and psychology. It resulted in changes in the classroom physical set up, as well as new activities well recorded due to a deeper observation of the children. The work will continue next year.



  • A course of Neuro-Dramatic Play happened for the second year and had 22 participants consisting of teachers, facilitators, therapists, medical practitioners and parents from Auroville. This course was essentially the second part of a two-part diploma course which began in 2018. Approximately half of the participants were new applicants and the initial challenge was to integrate the two groups. Dr. Jennnings ran an introductory morning for the new participants on the first day and then proceeded with integration work when second year participants joined in the afternoon. Children from Nandanam Kindergarten joined the course in the afternoons of Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
  • We supported schools and teachers in developing English as a Second Language programs.
    • In the areas of literacy, English as a Second Language and class management we supported Thamarai, encouraging Tamil teachers to develop their professional development skills.
    • At the request of Azim Premji Foundation we helped them in the area of the creative and expansive use of textbooks to encourage literacy and English as a Second Language for Government school teachers.
    • At Udavi School, weekly Professional Development sessions happened regularly and will continue.
    • At Aikiyam School the library program run by one of our Teachers' Center members took place this year for the 4th and 5th graders, as part of our input to improve English learning in the Auroville Outreach schools.
  • Last summer for the first time, we organized meetings between Deepanam teachers and Transition School] teachers, grade by grade, where interesting exchanges took place regarding program, techniques and material. We were planning to do the same this summer, but the epidemic situation till now does not allow it.

 

Outcomes:

  • A Supportive Learning satellite was created under the Teachers' Center. It was becoming a necessity, we had specialists working with children from different schools and who needed the freedom to move around, not being obliged to stay in one school because of a maintenance linked to that particular school. The only way was for them to be under Teachers' Center umbrella. At the moment we have one specialist already working and two who will start as soon as possible. They will be part of the Teachers' Center team, and their budget will be accounted by Teachers' Center. It will allow them to better cover the needs of our children for special attention in the different schools, having more flexibility and better use of their time.
  • Two members of our team are helping to form the Child Protection Policy Team at the request of Auroville Council and Working Committee. They have worked with Child Protection experts from Save the Children in Europe and Asia, with social workers in the Punjab working in the field and with women’s groups from Chennai. They have run an awareness-raising workshop for teachers and therapists and have presented their report to the working groups. They are currently working with working groups to obtain funding, form a group and go forward with training. The Teachers' Center was used for meetings and information.
  • Language activities using children's storybooks created by Auroville artists were developed. This was a beautiful project using Auroville resources, putting beauty at the center of educational material. It was a lot of work to design the material. Training on how to use this resource was given at Udavi and Nandanam.


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  • We created a much needed “Teaching Strategies” PowerPoint presentation series for new teachers which includes: Overview, Assessments, Behavior Management, Classroom Organization, Curricular and Lesson Planning, Getting to Know Your Students, Health and Safety, Parent-Teacher Communication and Teaching With Care. A “New Teacher Folder” is being put together to accompany new teachers as well. This has been created to give an easier access to new ideas and techniques in the field of education than books.
  • Creation of an Edmodo online site for the Teachers’ Center is up and running. Recently, due to the lockdown, children leaving Kindergarten have not been able to review phonetics, math and science skills. We have created a “Prepping for 1st Grade” Edmodo Classroom for these students and upload a sequential series of videos three times a week which they can do from home.
  • A Teachers' Center book list has been compiled and will be sent to all the schools by the start of next term.
  • We co-created with parents a “Digital Homeschooling Resources” folder on Google Drive at the Teachers’ Center. This is an effort to ensure full access to educational materials for Auroville children whether they are in school or not.
  • For the second year, Geography classes were organized for Life Education Center which included 15 sessions and 6 field trips. “I and the Universe” is the program used by the teacher. The women learned about world geography as well as concentrating on India and the bio-region. History and Social Studies are also part of the course. The students were very motivated. These are women who have highly educated children but are themselves barely literate. This course widens their horizon, they grow, and have interesting topics to exchange with their family and others. They know about the world, they can connect what they see on TV with all they have been learning in these classes. It is boosting their self-esteem. The field trips were visits to Auroville places, so they learned about Auroville, and the aspiration that the place wants to manifest which is important for Auroville.
  • We have updated the Auroville Schools Bulletin Board. Worked to put together a Teacher Resource List with contact information to better share resources and facilitate communication. Subject- and age-specific teaching fields in excel allow us to communicate directly with concerned individuals to announce new resources available at the Teachers' Center, as well as provide the network to interface with volunteers.

 

Research highlights:

The Neuro-Dramatic Play course was highly innovative, introducing not only new concepts and techniques to be used in the work with children but bringing in the participation of children in the creative process. While techniques were taught, experienced, shared and practiced there, the themes from Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” ran through the course: themes of love, hate, joy, mistaken identity, obedience, betrayal, disappointment, fear, magic, magical thinking, domestic strife, belonging, rejection… and many more…. finally finding some kind of resolution and/or consonance.

Pre-course work had familiarized everyone with at least the outline and main themes of the play, and Dr. Jennings enabled and facilitated ways in which a text can be worked with to enable themes and constructs to be entered into, experienced, improvised around and developed or changed in a safe space. The children were integral to this work and improvised, acted and offered solutions producing a constantly evolving story which was then performed (accompanied by sets, props and costumes) in three groups, on the final day.

The group agreed to continue meeting and managed one meeting where ongoing work was shared and various leaders facilitated different parts of the workshop. There is also an informal sharing of work between participants. This will continue… eventually! Participants’ reports and contributions attached to this course indicate the value of this important work and how it has been, and will continue to be, an essential part of their approach.

The upgrading of the Crèche/Kindergarten in Aikiyam is interesting and innovative because time has been dedicated to go deeper in the philosophy behind what we are doing in Child Psychology and Development. As the teachers learned and understood, it awakened in them the will to research how to better meet the children’s needs. Their knowledge expanded and they were able to find alternative materials for the ones that could not be purchased or made in India, which would help fulfill the same needs in their child’s development. This increased their self-confidence and joy to grow and the strength to change what they were doing before.

Reflections:

A regular open-door policy (Mon-Friday 9-12) allowed us to receive drop-ins and inquiries during these office hours. The conversations and networking which emerged from these meetings inspired us to further develop communication and offer Human Resources to educators in Auroville. The Human Resource Bulletin Board in the Teachers’ Center can become a hub for volunteers and teachers who wish to participate in our community.

The Teachers' Center has grown this year into a solid base for us to meet and we can rely on each other’s many different capabilities and qualities.

The lack of communication between the Teachers’ Center and the teachers has been challenging. Information sent to the schools about workshops, initiatives etc… which were sent to the schools had not been disseminated effectively. Hence, teachers missed things they might otherwise have attended or found useful. We need a contact person in each school to make sure that the info reaches the teachers. This contact person could also collect information and give us feedback so that we may help facilitate or find workshops requested.

Online resources such as Google Drive or Edmodo are useful only if the teachers know how to use them. Additional training in education technology is necessary so that all may benefit easily from the use of their smart phones (which most teachers have today).  

Future direction:

As the current climate in relation to the Covid-19 lockdown is constantly in flux, we may need to prepare our teachers to use online tools effectively. It may be necessary for the teachers to document their curriculum digitally; this would ensure that concepts and building blocks are met in each classroom and accessible to other (and new) teachers in need of such information but unable to dig through classrooms and libraries, should there come a second/third wave of lockdowns. This digital information would help create the skeleton of a flexible Auroville Integral Education pedagogy program.

We are planning to develop further the Special Learning satellite and a strong link to Lilaloka. We would like to recruit and train a qualified and experienced teacher from the Tamil community to work in the Teachers' Center Special Need section. Her role would be to work along child psychologist and existing teachers in the outreach schools. She would also have an ambassadorial role with parents from the bioregion where it is not always easy to provide the support a child needs due to cultural and social perceptions.

We also have an objective to develop an English as a Second Language satellite.

 

We will work on improving our internal communication between the Teachers' Center team members as well as our communication with the schools. We will ask in each school that someone become the Teachers' Center personal contact. This way we can also assist the schools in finding temporary replacements due to the current international visa and travel restrictions.

We will continue to digitize the Auroville Integral Education program and possibly create an online classroom for teachers.

We are planning for further development of the Fantastic Phonics program for Udavi School 4th grade (it is already used in the earlier grades), training new teachers and developing resources.

The Teachers' Center team being not enough to respond to all the requests and needs from the schools, we would like to create a team of mentors able to help the new teachers.